Make the Most of the Next 12 Months  

Several years ago I got a birthday card from my co-workers.  It was a nice card filled with kind words of birthday cheer.  Of all the notes written, there was one encouraging message that really stood out.  It simply read, “Make the most of the next 12 months, for you will never be this age again!”

I’d never thought of birthdays like that.  Sure, I know how the calendar works, but I‘d never really considered that we get the privilege of being a certain age for only 12 months.  This encouraging note reminded me that I get to decide how I want to spend the next 12 months of my lives.

It’s easy to think of birthdays as a reminder that we’re getting older, but my co-worker’s wise words continue to remind me that we have a role to play in what we do with the days between our birthdays.  We can choose to become “old” by complaining that we’re getting old, or we can choose to be grateful for the days we have and get about the business of living them well.  It’s absolutely up to us.

Even Though It Sucks

On Monday we took our 5 year old Siamese cat Chewy to the vet to be put to sleep.  He was suffering with the last stages of heart disease.  Chewy is the big one in the picture below.

Chewy

As my wife and I noticed Chewy getting worse we made 2 decisions:

  1. To love him well, all the way to the end
  2. To put him down before he was in pain or having trouble getting around

Chewy was a very lovable and affectionate cat, so the first decision was easy to follow through on.  For me, loving him well meant not only petting him and continuing to say nice things to him during his last days, it also meant being with him until his very last heart beat in the veterinarian’s office.  He brought me a tremendous amount of joy, so it was my privilege to usher him out with love.

Following through on the second decision sucked.  We could tell that Chewy’s time had come, but that didn’t make it any easier.  It was hard to scoop him up in my arms and take him to the vet, knowing that for him, it would be a one way trip.  Although we knew it was the right thing to do, it didn’t feel very good.

Letting him go beyond this point, because we didn’t want to do what was hard, would have been cruel to Chewy and would have gone against the first decision we made, which was to love him well to the end.

While we miss Chewy’s presence, we are grateful that we followed through with our decision regarding when to take him in.  Even though it sucked.

Changing The Plan

On a recent trip to Maine, my wife and I made a stop at Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.  We hadn’t known about either of these attractions when we started, but rather came upon them while driving from Acadia to Camden.  Since they looked intriguing, we changed our plans and stopped to check them out.

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The Penobscot Narrows Bridge was unique because you could take an elevator to an observation deck at the top of the structure and see all across Maine.  It was especially scenic with all the fall colors no display.  Both of these attractions were quite remarkable and well worth the stop.

Fort Knox was a Revolution era fort that thwarted efforts of the British navy vessels that attempted to sail up the Penobscot River.  It was interesting to learn about this fort and explore the building and grounds.  I never knew something like this existed.

I’m glad we were not solely focused on getting from point A to point B, but were willing to change out plans when something interesting presented itself.   The Journey was made more memorable by our willingness to change up the plan.

Keeping Busyness In Check

I like being busy.  Not busy just for the sake of being busy, but busy doing things that are meaningful and fulfilling.  To me, life is more fun when our days are full of activities that give us purpose.  However, it’s crucial that we remember to make time for those important things that can easily get lost or overlooked in the midst of our day-to-day busyness.

Some important things are extremely easy to put off because of how busy we are.  Consider how easy it is to tell ourselves, “When I’m not so busy I need to:”

  • Make time to connect with my friend…
  • Schedule that annual checkup or routine medical screening
  • Start exercising daily
  • Begin saving for the future
  • Make some healthy changes to my diet
  • Pursue that goal or dream of mine

Our intentions are to do these important things, but the reality is that they often get forgotten or pushed out because we are busy.  The reality is also that putting off these things could have significant negative consequences if they are neglected too long.  Those consequences could be things like:

  • The drifting a part of a once great friendship
  • A once easily preventable/treatable condition has turned into a full blown medical emergency
  • Our health has deteriorated
  • Our lifestyle will drastically change, because we don’t have the resources we need for the future
  • Our goals and dream go unrealized

All because we are too busy to address them today.

Let’s make sure we’re not being so busy today that we neglect the things that will lead to a fulfilling and healthy future.

Get This Decision Right

Many of the choices we make don’t require a great deal of thought. For example deciding what you’re going to wear today, what you’re having for dinner, or where you want to go on vacation this year, while important, are not life changing decisions. If, in fact, you do make a bad decision in one of these areas, the consequences are pretty insignificant. (Your life isn’t going to change a great deal if you had chicken for dinner instead of salmon!) However, for those decisions where the stakes are much higher, we must make sure we’ve gathered sufficient information and given ample thought to our decision before we pull the trigger.

One of the most important decisions we make is the primary person we decide to do life with. Whether it’s a spouse, a life partner, or significant other, this person will have a very substantial role and impact in our life. As such, this type of relationship should be entered into slowly. Only after we’ve gathered significant experiences and information about the other person are we about to make a good decision.

If you’re currently in the process of making this decision about someone, before you decide, you should have answers to the following questions:

  • Do you know what your own goals and dreams are and what you, specifically, want out of life?
  • What are the other person’s goals and expectations from life? Do they align with yours?
  • What are the non-negotiable character traits and attributes you’re looking for in another person?
  • What are the non-negotiable character traits you are unwilling to settle for in another person?
  • How does this person align with the previous 2 questions?
  • No, really! How do they align?
  • What’s their worldview and outlook on life?
  • How does the other person handle conflict?
  • How do they handle money?
  • How do they treat other people?
  • How do they treat you?
  • How do they respond when life gets tough?
  • What guides them in how they make decisions and live their life?

The only way you will get answers to these questions is through conversation and time together. Lots of time together, so don’t be in a big hurry. The questions above are a list you can check off in a weekend, a week, or month. To really answer these questions, I think it’s important to observe someone for at least a year, if not longer.

Nothing will affect the quality of your life more that the primary person you decide to do life with, so spend the time to seriously answer these questions, lest you rush into a bad decision.

Putting Compounding To Work

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. Those who understand it, earn it… those who don’t… pay it.”  ~ Albert Einstein

When we invest money, the interest we earn on that money also earns interest for us.  Over years of consistent investing, the interest-earning-interest can wind up being a significant sum.  While we might not see big results right away, the impact of compounding will soon become significant. This is the concept of compounding interest.

Here’s thing about compounding that most people don’t realize… it’s just as effective in other areas of life beyond finance.

The healthy habits we intentionally develop, and continue to practice year over year, yield desired results.

  • A healthy diet yields good health
  • Healthy spending habits yield control over your finances
  • Healthy saving and investing habits yield financial freedom
  • Continuous learning exposes you to new ideas and fresh perspectives

Here’s one more thing most people may not realize about compounding… it can also work against you.  Compounding is not limited to yielding increasingly good results.  Our bad habits, practiced year over year, can unintentionally yield undesirable results.

  • A bad diet yields poor health
  • Poor spending habits yields a consistent lack of money and debt
  • Failure to save and invest yields financial insecurity and potentially poverty
  • Deciding not to learn lead to becoming stagnant, outdated, and irrelevant

The most important thing we can know about compounding is that it will do its work in our life whether we invite it to or not.  The most important thing we can do with regard to compounding it to make sure we’re putting it to work for us.

ACTION:  Develop and regularly practice the habits that will compound to bring you the results you seek.

Giving Attention

Here’s a quick mental exercise. See if you can think of an area of your life that gets better instead of worse as a result of being neglected. Here my attempt at a list and whether or not these areas get better when neglected:

  • Relationships – No
  • Health – No
  • Finances – No
  • Career – No
  • Family – No
  • Personal development – No
  • Possessions – No
  • Outlook on life – No
  • A garden of wild weed – Yes

Most areas of our life don’t get better as a result of neglect, they usually get worse. I know, that’s obvious, but here’s what may not be so obvious. While we may not intentionally decide to neglect an important area of our life, neglect is what happens when we fail to give something our attention.

To make something better, or to at least keep it good, requires our effort and attention. With so many things clamoring for our attention it’s essential that we purposefully give attention to those important areas of our life, lest they be unintentionally neglected.